Android and Chrome OS are about to majorly change, according to new reports.
Google is rumoured to be developing a new laptop that might fall under the "Pixel" brand name - just like the company's upcoming Pixel flagship phones, but the most remarkable thing about this yet-to-be-unveiled device, which goes by the codename Bison or nickname Pixel 3, is it will run on an entirely new operating system that merges Android with Chrome OS.
That hybrid operating system is currently dubbed Andromeda. Here's everything we know so far about it, including when it will be available to use.
What is Google Andromeda?
Many reports have suggested Google is making an Android-Chrome OS hybrid.
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The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Google is attempting to fold Chrome OS (the OS it developed to power Chromebooks) into Android (the OS it developed for Android mobile devices, including Nexus devices). Engineers at the Mountain View, CA-based company have reportedly been trying to combine the two systems over the past three years, with the goal of unveiling a single, unified operating system by 2017.
For instance, more recently, Android Police claimed Google will release a Bison/Pixel 3 convertible laptop in Q3 2017, while 9to5Google said a Nexus-branded, 7-inch tablet made by Huawei will arrive by the end of 2016. Both these devices will run a new OS called Andromeda, which is thought to be the name of Google's hybrid Android/Chrome OS. Because it'll run Andromeda, the Pixel 3 won't be marketed as a Chromebook.
The Pixel 3 is meant to showcase Andromeda in a laptop form factor and will actually rival Windows PCs and MacOS machines.
Didn't Google already merge Android with Chrome OS?
Sort of. At I/O in June 2016, Google confirmed plans to bring Android apps to Chrome OS products. That means you're basically able to download and install apps from the Google Play Store onto your Chromebook. Soon, you'll be able to fling Angry Birds from a catapult on your Chromebook and download a shedload of other apps you'd normally find on your phone or tablet.
However, according to Android Police, Andromeda is a completely separate effort from Android apps on Chrome OS. It said Andromeda is a much larger initiative that's all about merging Chrome features into Android - not vice versa.
Does this mean Android is dead?
No. It's more like Chrome OS - as we know it - is dead.
Android Police suggested that Google is currently focused on pitching Andromeda as a laptop experience that will rival Microsoft and Apple. The company hasn't yet released a Chromebook Pixel for 2016, for instance, because it'll likely ditch "Chromebook" altogether and move forward with Andromeda. Also, keep in mind Google is expected to announce new Pixel phones in October running Android 7.1.
While Google may demo Andromeda at the Pixel launch event in October, its new Android-powered hardware and Pixel brand is meant to be the focus, alongside the Google Home voice-activated speaker, Google Wi-Fi router, Daydream VR headset, and Chromecast Ultra dongle. Google still has a long way to go with Andromeda, but by 2017, we should see the first devices running Andromeda.
From that point forward, Google might think about making Andromeda a truly unified OS that powers not only laptops and tablets but also phones.
But that's just speculation.
Is Andromeda different from Google Fuchsia OS?
Google is rumoured to be developing another new OS that goes by the codename Fuchsia. It was once thought to be either Google's unifying OS or a system meant to power Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as Google's OnHub router.
Fuchsia is an evolving pile of code. You can find it on the search giant's code depository and on GitHub. The code is supposedly the early beginnings of an entirely new operating system, though Google has yet to confirm those details.
Fuchsia is built on Magenta, a "medium-sized microkernel" based on a project called LittleKernel, which is meant for embedded systems, such as a device that has a specific purpose but doesn't require a whole OS, like a router or watch.
It's therefore unclear if Andromeda and Fuchsia are the same or distinct beasts.
When will Andromeda be available?
The Wall Street Journal in October 2015 said consumers could expect to see an early version of an Android-Chrome OS hybrid, which is now presumed to be Andromeda, previewed sometime in 2016.
Remember: Google is holding a Made by Google event on 4 October in San Francisco, where it will likely introduce new Pixel-branded flagships and other hardware devices such as Google Home and Chromecast Ultra.
Android's SVP tweeted recently that Google announced the first version of Android eight years ago, and that he "had a feeling" eight years from now we'll all be talking about 4 October 2016, which is the same date as Google's Made By Google event. His tweet indicates something major is happening to Android on 4 October. Could it be the introduction of Andromeda?
We announced the 1st version of Android 8 years ago today. I have a feeling 8 years from now we'll be talking about Oct 4, 2016.— Hiroshi Lockheimer (@lockheimer) September 24, 2016
As for when Andromeda will be available, Android Police said a Bison/Pixel 3 convertible laptop running Andromeda should arrive by Q3 2017, while 9to5Google said a Nexus-branded, 7-inch Huawei tablet running Andromeda should arrive by end of 2016. 9to5Google also claimed that Google has been testing the hybrid OS on the HTC-made Nexus 9.
Want to know more?
Check out Pocket-lint's Google Andromeda hub for breaking news.